If you're in Florida, the answer is no.
According to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Council,
With regard to a social networking site, in order to fall within the prohibition of Canon 2B, the Committee believes that three elements must be present. First, the judge must establish the social networking page. Second, the site must afford the judge the right to accept or reject contacts or “friends” on the judge’s page, or denominate the judge as a “friend” on another member's page. Third, the identity of the “friends” or contacts selected by the judge, and the judge's having denominated himself or herself as a “friend” on another's page, must then be communicated to others. Typically, this third element is fulfilled because each of a judge's “friends” may see on the judge’s page who the judge’s other “friends” are. Similarly, all “friends” of another user may see that the judge is also a “friend” of that user. It is this selection and communication process, the Committee believes, that violates Canon 2B, because the judge, by so doing, conveys or permits others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.Florida's Canon 2B reads:
A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.The opinion goes on to say that it is not the act of "friending" on Facebook that violates the rules, it is the appearance that such conduct might lead one to believe a special relationship exists between the judge and his or her "friends."
The Committee believes that listing lawyers who may appear before the judge as “friends” on a judge's social networking page reasonably conveys to others the impression that these lawyer “friends” are in a special position to influence the judge. This is not to say, of course, that simply because a lawyer is listed as a “friend” on a social networking site or because a lawyer is a friend of the judge, as the term friend is used in its traditional sense, means that this lawyer is, in fact, in a special position to influence the judge. The issue, however, is not whether the lawyer actually is in a position to influence the judge, but instead whether the proposed conduct, the identification of the lawyer as a “friend” on the social networking site, conveys the impression that the lawyer is in a position to influence the judge. The Committee concludes that such identification in a public forum of a lawyer who may appear before the judge does convey this impression and therefore is not permitted.But, assuming a judge being "friends" with lawyers on a social networking site violates ethics rules in Florida, would such conduct violate the rules in Texas?
Canon 2B of Texas' Code of Judicial Conduct reads:
A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.Now, let's be honest. We all have "friends" on Facebook that we don't know or haven't had any actual contact with in years. I'm "friends" with a bunch of folks I went to high school with that I haven't seen or talked to in 25 years. Just because you're "friends" with someone on Facebook doesn't mean that person has any special pull.
Judge Susan Criss in Galveston and I are "friends" on Facebook. I practice in her court. I have no special privileges when I set foot in her courtroom. Judge Criss posts pictures of the sun setting over the island and of her dogs chewing up her slippers. It's funny.
I'm not concerned about a judge and a lawyer being "friends" on a social networking site. That doesn't convey, to me, the appearance of impropriety. But what about lawyers and firms who donate money to judicial campaigns? The names of those donors are not readily available (though they are included on campaign finance reports filed with the state).
Judicial elections are a necessary evil in Texas - it's a bad system but it's better than any alternative. If being "friends" on Facebook is a sin in Florida, what about donating money to judicial election campaigns? Which is likely to have more influence? I'm not saying that just because an attorney or a firm donates money to a campaign that they will receive special treatment in that court (or the converse), but if we're talking about appearances...